Bridgeport needs a cheerleader. That’s what I hear from downtown property owners, merchants, workers etc.
The other day the University of Bridgeport hosted a forum featuring Larry Goldman, chief executive of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center that helped revitalize downtown Newark.
His message: the arts can change perception and transform an image.
Said UB President Neil Salonen:
“The arts are important to us…they’re important to the community. The arts are good for the soul and good for the community in a practical way.”
Let’s look downtown and environs: City Lights Gallery, Housatonic art gallery, ballpark, arena, Barnum Museum, Downtown Cabaret, Playhouse on the Green, an emerging restaurant district on Fairfield Avenue, Sweetport Festival, a variety of events at Baldwin Plaza (not just Ann Coulter).
A cheerleader has a lot to work with. So, who’ll step up? It could be the mayor. Cheerleading is not just about we’re great and waving pom poms. It’s about organizing a marketing plan and putting folks in place that can carry it through.
Enthusiasm is one of Bill Finch’s assets. If he can find some breathing room outside the of the grind of running the state’s largest city to focus on marketing city assets the cheerleading becomes contagious. His can pass the baton to his Economic Development Director Don Eversley. “Jesus, Grimaldi, leave me alone. I have enough to do.”
Okay, wouldn’t it be nice if People’s United Bank CEO Philip Sheringham stepped up to help? You talk to anyone about the head of the largest bank based in Connecticut and they’ll tell you Philip doesn’t want to play. He’s from the left coast, no local roots, doesn’t care about Bridgeport. He drives into Bridgeport to work in his Taj Mahal office and drives out of the city when the day is done. Whatever he does to support Bridgeport is tokenism.
Shearingham ordering his marketing department to free up a few hundred grand to support a city marketing campaign is chump change for a bank with billions in assets. Or maybe Shearingham and Finch get together for a you kick in, I’ll kick in exchange? And maybe a few others from the business community play as well.
It’s been proven over and over, market your destination points, promote the arts and people and investors will follow. Gee, what a novel idea.
(Check out my daily blog at www.onlyinbridgeport.com)